Honorable mention — Grad student essay contest: Chelsea Robinson
The importance of wives
FFRF awarded Chelsea $200.
By Chelsea Robinson
“Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church.” — 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
While it seemingly posits moral values, the bible contains antiquated and potentially harmful information when viewed within the context of today’s social climate. One of the most egregious views that the bible supports is the subservience of wives to their husbands. This is a prevalent theme throughout the bible that fails to protect women from harm and inevitably sets up a dangerous precedent that a husband’s actions cannot be disputed.
Commerce, women’s rights, and, most importantly, lives are at stake when the real-life implications of this verse are upheld among Christian communities. Quality of life for men, women and children are greatly increased when wives are acknowledged for their social and familial autonomy.
In 2007, women controlled 30 percent of all private firms in the United States. That’s over $1 trillion in profits, and it portrays the vast economical influence that women can yield. In ancient times, wives primarily tended to domestic duties and rarely held positions outside of the home. Today, many women are pursuing advancement on their own, or they are able to balance family life with their career. Further, our collective psyche has evolved to seek intellectual pursuits as supported by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The psychologist Abraham Maslow postulates that once our basic needs have been fulfilled (food, shelter, safety), humans seek weightier goals such as belonging, prestige and recognition for their accomplishments. With free thinking
abilities, women can seek a more purposeful life for themselves. Husbands who discourage their wives from pursuing their own goals would hinder the progress of the entire society.
Women should be guaranteed the same rights as men for equal societal representation.
By asserting that “the husband is the head of the wife,” the bible removes the free will that women possess as living, breathing human beings. With the 19th century advent of free nations, many people were able to democratize their ideas for the betterment of their communities. Free men were able to vote for their town leaders and the laws that would affect their daily lives. Unfortunately, women were not guaranteed the same rights until 1920. This new world order aligns with the bible in that a specific, homogenized group would make decisions that affect a whole, unhomogenized group of individuals. Historically, this has been shown to create massive inequality and social unrest. Further, the well-known philosopher Aristotle states that the “having of a mind is essential to being human.” The bible removes the wife’s humanity and definitive rights by declaring that the husband is her “head.” Many laws that we have today (abortion, education, feminine hygiene taxes) directly affect women and they should be able to have greater influence over their lives.
By being subservient to men, women are at risk of physical or mental harm and in some cases, death. According to a 2018 report for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, 35 percent of heterosexual American women have experienced intimate partner violence. The bible quote implies (“just as Christ is the head of the church”) that husbands can commit spousal abuse and deter their wives from seeking help or leaving them due to these abuses. The verse also supposes that wives should worship their husbands as they do the Lord, which directly compares husbands to the Lord and contradicts their infallibility. This could further be construed that a husband’s abuse of his wife is godly should she “deserve it” (another subjective clause), and therefore, inadmissible by God. In 1948, 48 countries signed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that “nobody has the right to hurt us or torture us.” Among nations with more than 50 million Christian inhabitants, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Germany, Ethiopia and the United States signed the document. Inherently, wives have the right to be safe from the potential perils of their husbands.
As a society, Americans are moving toward full gender equality. Gay marriage was federally legalized by the Supreme Court, and more women than in any time in history are delaying or even eschewing the institution of marriage. The bible’s quotes pertaining to wives underpin their larger potential as contributors in society, and uphold archaic values that have no relevance in today’s increasingly progressive world. Our society can’t risk teaching future generations such harmful bible verses, since women have made great strides in equality for thousands of years since.
Chelsea, 30, is from West Hollywood, Calif., and attends the University of Southern California, where she is working toward a master’s degree in marketing and consumer behavior. She has been instrumental in acquiring new business for Fortune 500 brands and high-growth startups. In her spare time, she teaches yoga, watches foreign films and volunteers for a local animal rescue. She also travels frequently and has visited 50 countries in the past 10 years.